Doggedly Updating

I have much that I want to write about but I’ve been really tired the last week or so. The best I can muster is a few bullet points for now, begging your pardon.

  • So according to my poll (a new one is now up) I have (drumroll please…) eleven readers. Discounting those who are related to me and therefore read out of a sense of obligation, that means that I have attracted the attention of four whole people. Look out, syndicated columnists! Your time is nigh!
  • I went up to Seattle for a few days last week to hang out a bit with Fast Track. Seattle is a really cool place and I had a great time. A little advice for you, though: In Seattle, wait by the curb for a cab because those guys won’t call when they get to your place if they don’t see you standing around out there. I’m not sure why that is.
  • There is an interesting article on about not forcing players into your plots. It was eye-opening because I know that as a GM I tend to really work hard to get a super sweet story rolling when I finally sit down to design and build a campaign or adventure. I don’t want players to miss out on the totally rad scenarios I have cooked up so when they start misinterpreting clues or roughing up characters that were supposed to be allies, it is really easy for me to get frustrated and try to start the railroading process. My most recent foray into GMing was a good example because as the players went a bit off-track my descriptions started getting more and more vague until they followed the breadcrumbs back to the path where I could read from my pre-written exposition again. For me part of the problem is that I love to tell stories but I’m really very lazy so designing a role-playing game is a good way to tell stories like that because I only need to do the fun stuff which is come up with the general plot and a few key characters and then I get to both tell the story and get other people to help me with the details (the hard part) at the same time. But I like what the article has to say so for my upcoming Shadowrun 4th Edition campaign I’m going to try and make a conscious effort to roll with it a little more and be less tunnel-visioned when it comes to keeping the players on the rails.
  • Nik and I have been playing an obscene amount of Catan Card Game, specifically the tournament-style game from the Expansion Set. In a way the game plays like Magic-lite because you need two full copies of the game and the expansion so that each player builds their own custom 33-card deck. There are combos, strategies and all sorts of unique things to try in this variant and I like it quite a bit. The game’s mechanics are pretty well balanced to begin with (nevermind the 5th Settlement naysayers, we’ve had games recently that demonstrate this is not true including me winning soundly with only one additional settlement and Nik winning after falling behind 6:3 settlement-wise) and having to come up with clever ways to work the cards you have in your deck to your advantage works in some cases even better than Magic. I’ve always thought Magic worked best in closed-system style games (hence my propensity for Type-P or sealed deck style games of Magic) and since Catan is a closed-system, it’s neatly sidesteps a lot of the potential balance issues Magic runs into regularly. Of course Nik and I are only able to play this way because we borrowed Lister and Whimsy‘s copies of the game sets and we need to give those back at some point so we’re probably going to have to buy new copies of the game and expansion… I don’t see going back to the old style very often now that we’ve experienced the wonder of tournament style.
  • There is a pretty interesting article over on the Wall Street Journal about abundance paradox with Netflix movies. I’ve noticed this myself because Netflix gives me a greater chance to watch movies that I might otherwise only see if they A) happened to be on TV or B) someone else sat me down to watch. The article’s mention of weightier fare being common bottlenecks in queues is absolutely true: I see lots of the movies I put on my list because they earned high praise from a lot of critics or because they were nominated for awards (stuff like “The Constant Gardener” and “Millions”). But when it comes to seeing movies in the theater I tend to stick to mainstream stuff, mostly action and Science Fiction (at least when it’s up to me). But watching movies that are designed to make you think or that are more artistic for art’s sake requires a certain frame of mind: One that I don’t necessarily attain all that readily when I get home from work. The only thing I’ve been able to do is finally decide that I’ll give a movie two chances: If I fall asleep twice or if I just can’t make myself sit through it after a couple of attempts, I’ll send it back. I may re-queue it for later, but I’d rather try something else (considering there is essentially no drawback to returning it unwatched and in fact it is less economical to hang on to something you aren’t watching—an interesting reversal from the regular video store) now and see if I’m not more in the mood at a later date. This works pretty well but doesn’t address the real problem which is trying to get two people to find the right frame of mind concurrently to allow them to watch a movie they both want to see. Oddly enough Netflix works best as a solo venture and Nik and I have a lot better luck finding stuff to watch together when we hit the video store and can take advantage of the instant gratification factor.
  • So it sounds like my brother didn’t care for a lot of the music I sent him. It’s not a big deal, but it kind of surprised me how opinionated he was with some of the stuff. Back in high school he’d pretty much listen to whatever I handed to him and nod along thoughtfully without really saying much about it one way or the other. The only way I knew he actually liked anything was if he actively listened to it on his own accord. To hear him go out of his way to bash on Interpol and Wilco was somewhat unexpected not because the bands are that wonderful (though I happen to like them both quite a bit) but because it seemed somewhat out of character for Scott. I suppose this just means he’s got a bit of a curmudgeonly streak in him as well (not nearly as wide or as thick as my own of course). In his comments to me about the music he noted that he missed some of the rocking that indie bands aren’t necessarily as prone to do as mainstream rock acts; I realized that I missed the boat by passing over Muse as a possibility. Those guys totally know how to rock and do it all the time. He might have dug them even more than The Decemberists.
  • Speaking of music, I was on a roll there for a while keeping my library of songs growing at a steady but manageable clip. Then I ran across a co-worker who hooked me up with a veritable bounty of new stuff and it steamrolled my playlists with new and unfamiliar tracks. I’ve finally gotten to where I recognize a lot of what he gave me when it pops up on shuffle but I haven’t gotten back to expanding and exploring again. Sad, too, since Thom Yorke just put out a solo album I have yet to pick up and the List of Bands to Check Out When I Have Time that sits on my Netvibes home page has swollen to somewhere in the neighborhood of 22. I’m thinking of re-titling it “List of Bands to Check Out Many Years From Now When They’ve All Broken Up and I Don’t Have to Worry About Them Putting Out New Albums.” Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue so well.
  • There has been a lot of talk about TVs lately. This stems primarily from a new HD LCD set purchased by my friend Foster and the subsequent contemplation it initiated in HB about his own television situation. Then I went to visit Fast-Track and noted his jamma wall-mounted HD plasma TV and felt the twinge of jealousy begin to grow within myself. The problem with a new TV purchase at the moment was well summarized by HB last night when he noted that the real problem is that the technology is advancing at a rate comparable to that of regular PCs so that anything you buy now is going to seem positively ancient in three or four years. And the real rub is that for all the sweet potential of a snazzy new HD flatscreen, it isn’t just the cost of the device you have to consider it also has a lot to do with your signal inputs since without an HD signal to take advantage of the monitor’s capability, you might as well not even bother. The cable situation in our apartment is so abysmal that it hardly seems worth the effort to try and get anything fancier than what we already have. Then again, raw real estate would be an unparalleled delight since I’ve been tolerating a mere 30″ screen (at most!) for the last six years or so.
  • I fiddled ever so briefly with Fast-Track’s PC playing Battlefield 2… I should know better by now than to mess with gaming PCs. Every time I do so I start getting all these wild machinations about being able to play PC games (Half-Life 2 beckons…) which is probably not so great considering my specs for a gaming PC tend to run in the range of $900+. I did see an ad in Electronic Gaming Monthly that I picked up at the airport to flip through while I was waiting for my flight to board that had a pre-built machine of reasonable specs for about $400. The problem with that is the price there is identical to that of an XBox 360. I keep telling myself I’m going to hold out on any more consoles until the price drops but if I was willing to spend $400 for a PC, how much more of a stretch is it for the 360? Granted there could be (potentially) other uses for the PC besides just gaming where the 360 would be little more than another bit of clutter in the ol’ entertainment center, but you have to understand that logic such as this plays no part in my decision-making processes. I fear that at some point it may come down to “$400 for a PC, $400 for an XBox or horde the $400 away like a squirrel collecting acorns?” Those are the kinds of decisions that usually lead to buyer’s remorse because I have very little in common with squirrels.
  • Except cheek capacity. I can hold a surprising amount of matter (typically food) in my cheeks. I don’t usually use this ability as a storage mechanism, but I could.
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One thought on “Doggedly Updating

  1. scott

    Y’know, it’s kind of funny that you mentioned Muse, because one of their songs was on the Mix 1 CD that i am now getting to the end of, and i was heck of down with it. It was almost precisely what i had felt was so lacking from Wilco – not just rockingness but also something i’ll call “song normalcy”. Yes, this does mean, as I’ve said to you in emails, that I am not indie, but nonetheless. I also fancied Paloalto’s track “Breathe In”, largely because it reminded me in a positive way of the sort of rockingness that Coldplay has absolutely mastered – lush, evocative music that still pulls you along with a steady beat and makes you nod your head. Another band that did this (albeit in a very different context and method)? I would say this is one of Pearl Jam’s greatest strengths.

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